There are two main areas where children can experience problems with their tonsils or adenoids: trouble with breathing, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA; and recurring tonsil and adenoid infections.
Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea: The hallmark of this problem is loud snoring with restless sleep. Many parents describe gasping or choking episodes, long pauses between breaths, and say that their child is "all over the bed." Some children are then hard to awaken, or always awaken tired or grouchy. Other symptoms include bedwetting, moodiness, and poor school performance. OSA can also mimic the behaviors of ADD/ADHD. Click here for a more in-depth review.
Sore Throat/Tonsillitis: Many children suffer from sore throats which often involve the tonsils. Over 75% of these infections are viral and will go away on their own. However, when they become a recurrent problem, the removal of the tonsils and sometimes the adenoids (tonsil-like tissue higher in the throat, in the back of the nose) can be helpful. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends considering the removal of the tonsil when someone has had "three or more infections of tonsils and/or adenoids per year despite adequate medical therapy." Click here for more information on tonsillitis.
What are tonsils and adenoids? The tonsils are located in the back of the throat, and the adenoids are up higher, behind the soft palate in the back of the nose. They are made of lymph node-like tissue that samples bacteria and viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections. They introduce these bacteria and viruses to the immune system, which then fights infections. Sometimes, though, the tonsils can harbor the infection. When this happens, removal can improve your child's health. Many parents wonder if removing the tonsils or adenoids will make it harder for their children to fight infections—but fortunately research has proven that this is not the case. Click here for a full review about the tonsils and adenoids.
Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy: Click here to see our handout explaining what to expect when your child needs to have his/her tonsils and adenoids removed.